Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Birfday Wishes Came True

Dear Erin,

Thank you for insuring that I had a wonderful birthday yesterday. Thanks for taking the kids shopping so they could pick something out for me and then thanks for wrapping it all. I had a great morning opening the little gifts of my favorite things while we had breakfast at the creamery. And thanks for the jacket. Maybe I'll be half as cool as you.

Erin, I am so grateful you are my sister. There aren't many who'll invite their sister and her five kids to trapse through their family vacation with them and NOT spend the entire time shouting at her onry nieces and nephews. I am thankful that you love them, even when their naughty (like at 11pm last night at bedtime.) While I know we're creating memories for our kids, I love staying up late with you on our laptops, watching crummy TV, and having you finish all these projects you brought with you. You are the queen of multi-tasking! After all the planning, organizing, thinking-it-through-ness, and efforts, you deserve a killer nap.

I love you!


Okay, now to yesterday's festivities. About my birthday, I wanted to give a HUGE thank you to my sister (who went way overboard to insure I had a great day) and then also, many thanks for all the sweet birthday wishes from friends and family. My cousin Rick even sent a wish from his hospital bed . . . how sweet is that? Another friend sang to me and then a lot of wonderful good wishes. It was really great. Thanks a ton.

So, for my birthday we did go to the creamery and it felt very birthday-fied. Erin's blog has all the pictures and goods from that brunch (since we didn't get out and moving until 11ish.) Then we headed up to the "This is the Place" monument park to partake in the pioneer goodness. An extra bonus that Uncle Brandon came a joined us for a little bit. My kids have so missed him and it was great to see him.

This was the second year we came here and Mackenzie actually asked if we could *PLEASE* stay until closing. This year we got a group photo (see Erin's blog) and saw a lot more than we did last summer, but we didn't even get to everything. Caylee thinks it would be a dream job to grow up and work at the pioneer park. Among the favorite activities were the train ride, working in the woodshop, and the pony rides. I could hardly get Brock out of the petting zoo and Brevin LOVED posing with a real gun in our picture. (After we were done with our pictures he was "showing" this lady the gun and waved it in her face. She didn't like that too much and proceeded to lecture him sternly about not pointing guns in people's faces. Uncle Brandon was all anxious about Brevin getting in trouble by someone else and I totally just rolled my eyes. Ya know, after nearly two weeks with 9 kids, I'm not going to freak out about Brevin's improper gun pointing [I don't even think he knew it was real and we all know it's not loaded . . . it's a prop for heaven's sake]. I'm sure the woman wanted me to react too, but she had it under control. )

Here I am talking to my father-in-law who gave me a birthday call. He was points ahead of Tyler who remembered to give me some birthday love at 9:48pm last night. All's fair in love and war, right? I totally forgot his birthday in 2003 while we were up here for his cousin's wedding. I figure we're all square now. It happening more as we get older; we forget things.

After our afternoon at the park, and a few wrong turns, and 1.5 hours later we made it to Aunt Jeanette's and Uncle Randy's for a yummy dinner. It's always fun to visit with them and the girls LOVED hanging out with Jessi while the boys followed Josh nonstop. They will forever remember that stop since we got to cook s'mores in their backyard, Brock played lacrosse, Brevin scored in the lego options, and Caylee survived their big, furry cats. Good times by all. I just love them . . . all of Tyler's family :)

Today we're relaxing, getting the carpet fixed, going to a swim park, cleaning and packing so we can head on out in the morning. I'll be happy to get home (to a super clean house . . . someone give Tyler the heads up that I'm expecting that, would ya?!). So far I'm really loving the summer vacation and it's going to continue to be fun with free movies, swimming, camping, and hello! HARRY POTTER. Hope you're all having a good time too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Life in These Parts

Because my sister and I are master planners, we'd checked out the weather sitch and discovered yesterday was to be a rainy day. PERFECT for walking over to the Wilk at BYU and bowling a game with the kids. They were all excited and the perfect thing about the Wilk bowling alley is they don't look like we're freakishly odd for coming in with 9 kids. Come to think of it, not many places have looked twice at us. If we were having a Vegas vacation I'm sure we'd garner a lot of comments. But we're not. We're in happy valley and I could live here. I really could. I'd have to talk myself into the bubble, but once here I could see myself loving every minute of it. Maybe in retirement. Then Tyler could fish on the river everyday and I could hang out in the BYU Bookstore.

We WERE going to peruse the campus, but by then the rain had come and our cityfied kids don't like wet grass, so we headed to the Creamery on 9th for an ice cream treat . . . and french fries. Holy toledo the fries were as good as the desserts. AND, and, and they have big vats of ranch, fry sauce, AND ketchup to fill as many cups of dips as you want. Now that's a generous eatery, if you ask me. There's nothing worse than having a ration of fry sauce, if you want my opinion about it. And here's something else I've noticed on our trip. There are REALLY friendly sales clerks here. They're chatty and easy to talk to (well, except the chic at Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart is not so "happy valley" anyway.) AND the cashiers are super patient when people write checks (like at Taco Bandido). Because I have also noticed a lot of people writing checks when they cash out and I'm rolling my eyes thinking "DEBIT CARD PEOPLE!" I even heard a guy ask his friend to pay for his lunch at Carl's Jr. (the other day) and that he'd "write [him] a check for his own portion." Are you kidding me? I don't think they realize how good the card swiping feels . . . or maybe they worry others will think they're charging it all and getting into debt. I don't know, but it kinda makes me laugh to see such an antiquated practice in full glory. ANYWAY, back to the brainwashing we do with our kids so they'll want to grow up and go to BYU:

While we were gorging on our treats it did start to sprinkle again and we all walked home in the rain. Then I relaxed with some of the kids while Erin ran some errands. One of the things we've had to fight with Briggs is the stairs. Since there are two sets, we've had to barricade them so Briggs won't climb up them since coming down is not something he's mastered yet. However, the longer we're here, the more he's figuring out ways around our plans.

The kids have had a real stressful week. Can't you tell?

Today was a beautiful Sunday morning and we all got up to go to a church service in Payson. We were late, by about 8 minutes {I know, shock, gasp, gulp! Not Sarah!? Late?}, but I thought that was decent for such a large troop. Afterward we totally invaded the Rices, and on Father's Day no less. Heather and I went to high school together and she was my one and only college roommate (unless you count Tyler.) I have loved her ever since I was friends with her and her generosity is only one of the reasons why. Her home is beautiful and SOOO impressive with all the projects she and her hubby Chris have completed. I think it's fun, too, that our kids are similar in ages. I will totally be puttin in my order for Briggs to date her Bridget OR for Brevin to date her Katelyn one day down the road. They are a wonderful family and I REALLY loved spending time with them all. It's hard when they come to Vegas to coordinate everything, so it was a real treat. And Chris, I totally owe you that foot massage. Next Mother's Day at my house.


Future BYU roommates?

The giants and Beauty!

Seriously what a great family!

After we left the Rices, we decided to take the kids up to the Provo temple where they could run off some of their energy. Of course that energy was spent whining about the pictures we made them take with us and the temples in the background and having breakdowns over the games being "unfair." At one point Erin and I watched a full blown smackdown with 3 of my 5 kids and while I should have probably chastised them for acting like raging lunetics, we just watched and laughed and commentated about the whole thing. It was over some kickball game that excluded Caylee and Brevin so they were all mad at Mackenzie. Caylee started mocking Kenzie and pushing her, but Mackenzie put on her cool and just agreed with everything Caylee was saying which REALLY made her mad. When the pushing didn't get them into the game, Brevin stole Kenzie's new shoes and started running away with them while Caylee started drawing on pages of her new notebook. (Both of those got a huge reaction from Kenzie.) Anyway. Kids. Can't live without them and I surely am getting tired of yelling at them for that kind of stuff. *sigh*

Ok, not that you can see, but I had to crop a couple who were laying next to the fountain on the next picture. That's something else I've kinda laughed at on the trip. It seems every park we've been to we've been a witness to a cheesy college date. Tyler would love it. The couple were very into each other and I'm sure there's not a sweeter date than going up to the temple on a Sunday afternoon.

We got home and once the kids were in jammies we made them a gourmet meal. (Minus the Coke . . . that stuff's only for me.) Ah yeah, some pigs in a blanket action. Go ahead. Like your lips. They're tasty.

And to cap off tonight we wrote Uncle Mike some birthday cards for his birthday, which is Tuesday. I can't believe he's 21 and coming home from his mission in just about 8 weeks! To make him super trunky I sent him an itunes card and some pictures of my kids so he "can know what faces he's looking for as he comes down the airport escalator in August." I know, so mean, huh! I love the squirt, though, and can't wait for him to be home.

Tomorrow I'm really excited to go back to the "This is the Place" park and spend a few hours and then we'll be having dinner with Tyler's aunt and uncle. Always good times with his family. It'll be awesome. (Note: People say "awesome" a lot here. It's awesome.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We're all in this together

We are still surviving. I couldn't blog yesterday, which would have been ideal since we pretty much sat around all day, because I needed to purchase an external hard drive to clear off some memory. That's right, I have completely filled up my laptop's memory. Could be because some months, like this one, I have more than 430 pictures in my files.
Back to the recap. On Thursday, we rousted ourselves to make it to the Oquirrh Mt. temple open house. It probable would have been more exciting had Erin and I made it to bed before 4am, but we didn't, so our 10:30am appointment seemed REALLY early. On our way (hurrying, of course) to the freeway Erin totally got pulled over for speeding (we're not showing a good record at this point!) Call it what you want, but the cop let her go with only a warning and we were on our way. Now, for my non-LDS friends, a temple open house was a unique experience because normally only recommend-holding members attend the templ whereas a temple open house, is, well, totally open. That meant we got to take our kids and let them see the beautiful workmanship and have a better understanding of what we do when we "go to the temple." I was a bit surprised at the number of people who were there at 10:30am on a Thursday. AND, it is quite the production. I was incredibly impressed with the beauty of the temple and the detailed designs within. And the kids all really loved the "reception tent" that served water and cookies.

After the temple tour, we had a quick lunch at Carl's Junior (which is a total lie, because feeding all of us is a pretty good production). Then we went to the Gateway Discovery Children's Museum in downtown SLC. K. Totally cool. The kids were completely busy for 3.5 hours. Mostly because I refused to leave until closing because it cost me an arm and a leg to get my kids in (they charged for Briggs, even. And yes, without an arm and a leg it was a little tricky playing with all the stuff. I did manage, though. Thanks for the concern.) On our way back into Provo we stopped by Wal-Mart to stock up again on foodstuffs and supplies and by Taco Bell for dinner and then I "put" the kids to sleep by falling asleep with them. When I woke at midnight, Erin was up blogging, but I just went back to sleep. I figured I needed the energy for Friday's activities.

And it was a good thing I did sleep a full night because all the sitting around the townhouse on Friday took a lot out of me :) Unfortunately we found a little water damage from a leaking condensation tube from the air conditioning, so yesterday we waited for the handyman to come pull the carpet back, rip out the pad, and loan us a lovely commercial floor fan to dry it all out. Truth be told, it was good for the kids to lounge in their jammies for the day and then we packed a dinner picnic to head up the canyon for dinner. And then Erin's car wouldn't start. And that was bad because my big rig couldn't squeeze next to her to jump her dead battery. But then it did start and she headed to Wal-Mart (again, I swear we'd be in bad shape without Wal-Mart.) While she was getting a new battery I picked up an external hard drive and we wound up just inside Provo Canyon for a good dinner of sandwiches, chips, grapes, and cookies. The kids ran around and by dusk I tried to get a couple games of Simon Says and Red Light/Green Light. It was a good thought, but MY kids, apparantly are really poor losers and so we gave up, packed up, and headed home. We ice creamed the kiddos and then bathed and bedded them and I was able to clean off my computer.

Man, I just realized how many boring details I just shared. Sorry. Unless you feel like you are now on vacation with us. And in that case, welcome. (BTW, we had cookies and cream ice cream last night. It was good.) So let's get to the pictures; they may keep your interest over my long-winded praddle.

Here's Mackenzie. She's been a HUGE help on this trip. She cracked me up at the museum since she totally spent a lot of time, when she was playing in the store, organizing and straightening the shelves. She did make me a bit proud in her efforts. She and Sydney have had a good time together . . . most of the times.

And what can I say about Caylee other than she has either "really LOVED this trip" or been sure it's "the WORST trip EVER!" That's my girl. Hot AND cold. I'm realizing she does much better when she's fully rested; I mean WAY less breakdowns. She's still snarky and ripped off that there's no girl cousin her age on this trip (painful when we've told the kids to pair off . . . she has to be my partner, poor girl.)
Oh, and Brevin has been pretty good times. Unless he has to wait for anything. I totally can see where his impatience comes from because I lose it on him when he starts to whine and flail about if he doesn't get what he asks for RIGHT that minute. He's been off the Nintendo DS for a few days and has miraculously survived.
Brock has seemed more clingy to me this trip, but has also really clicked with Brooklyn and they play as much as they can . . . when they're not teasing each other. He's suffered from being one of the littler ones when he so badly wants to be able to do what the other, older kids can do. Each night that we've been here he asks me to sing to him and scratch his back. But then he tells me exactly what to sing and where to scratch which defeats the purpose of having that put him to sleep.
And poor Briggs has been run ragged. He hasn't gotten nearly the sleep he gets at home and since he's being pulled out of his carseat every five minutes, his catnapping skills are getting stronger by the day. I thought he'd be walking a little bit more, but he's in that "crawling is way faster phase." We've had to be speedy fast to keep him off the stairs.
And, yes, I'm hanging in there, too. I love spending time with my sister. She's been so patient with all of us and I'm trying not to be the naggy aunt who keeps after the kids for rough-housing and teasing and general kid shenanigans. But when I am compared to her, it's a losing game for me. It's a fun little tradition that we've started and several times we've talked about things we'll do "in a few years when the kids are older." And even then I fully expect that, for part of the trip, you'll find us like this.
Pease and love YO! From Utah.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thumbs Report

Here's our report on Wednesday, thanks to Brock's THUMBS UP or THUMBS DOWN in depth analysis.
Things from today that were THUMBS UP (a.k.a. good, great, happy, not stressful, not cuss-worthy, praiseworthy)
*CHEAP BREAKFAST (thank you cold cereal!)







*SEEING MEGAN, her cute BABY BUMP, and meeting CADE

*ANOTHER MEAL @ TACO BANDITO w/ my UNCLE LARRY (where we ran into my dad's good friend, Kenna Wyatt. LOVE that about small towns . . . AND she totally remembered my name even though she was Erin's 3rd grade teacher.)











*SICK MIKE (although Brock now believes that Marsha actually IS a Grandma since he saw the Bomp-pa on his sickbed)





Where The Wild Things Go

'Tis midnight plus on day #6 of our little trip and I have got some catchin' up to do of our good times (and a few not-so-good-ones) on our trip. I know my sister has blogged and added pictures to her facebook and so blah-dee-blah-blah to her for being so on the ball. I DO have one extra kid than her so for those of you who are reading both our blogs, hang on for a lot of repeats. Probably. I don't even know if I can remember back to Sunday. Which is where I left off.
Sunday is the day of rest. Right, right. Or on vacation in Island Park it is the rainy day we drove into West Yellowstone to go to the Bear and Wolf Discovery Center and to get ice cream at Dairy Queen. It was a religious experience I tell you. If it makes all of you feel better we did contemplate going to the "visitor's" church where you can wear jeans, but the suggestion was veto-ed pretty quick. The Wildlife park was pretty interesting. You know me, I was all into the back story of the bears and why they were relocated (mostly because humans fed them and the "naturalist" who worked there was VERY bitter about the human ignorance on that social problem!) and also caught up in keeping Brock OFF the fences that kept the humans from becoming the food the bears would eat. We lucked out to see a half hour presentation on birds of prey which was about 28 minutes too long for el-Brock-o, but since we had sat on the front row we were on strict orders not to move or wave our arms. That whole situation proved pretty stressful. One of the owls "baited" [flapped its wings] and Caylee about had a coronary. Between my OBVIOUS city kids and the naturalist's LACK of personality the presentation is clearly 30 minutes of my life I will be frustrated to never get back. HOWEVER, the birds were interesting and, again, I dug the back story on why they were removed from the wild to live in West Yellowstone.
(Here's the "We're So Scared of the Wolves" picture, Caylee's idea)

We headed back to the cabin after gorging on ice cream and then visited throughout the evening. Monday morning Tyler was up before dawn to get a good mornings' worth of fishing in and the rest of us started packing up. (Hmmmm, I think this fishing hobby provides Tyler with MANY levels of happiness since he seems to miss the packing back up/cleaning on several of our trips.) Anyway, I climbed into the little attic space and found Marsha playing McDonalds with just Brock. He couldn't be more tickled. He kept asking her if she was his friend and about her Bomp-pa (translation- Grandpa/husband). I think he wanted proof that she really was a grandma, but how could he doubt after she would climb up there and make him hamburgers and hotdogs with play food for quite a while? Marsha's daughter, Megan, is having their first grandson in August and I have no doubt that even the baby won't have ruffles and lace, Grandma Marsha will have a GREAT time with him too.

Then it was time to leave and we had to get a shot from the porch

And one with Marsha and her entourage. She's so popular.

Before we left for Idaho Falls to drop the boys off at the airport, Marsha too us to her favorite Island Park spot to feed the fish. It was gorge-e-or-geous and the seagulls were pretty entertaining. We also saw the fattest rainbow trout just chillin' and some ducks, pelicans, and even a muskrat (nasty long tail trailing that thing!) Here's some of the wild things we saw over the weekend:

One of the things we wanted to do on our way back south was to stop at the temple grounds to see some of the temples in the areas we were driving through. First up was Rexburg where my kids said, "It's so nice that Jesus has such a big lawn." They're quite smitten with grass. We let the kids kick off their shoes and play around (yes, I don't know how reverent that is, but it has become a common theme at our stops.) Brevin, of course, cuts his lip open in a game of Red Rover. Bets are that's not going to be his first bloody accident this trip.

We loaded up the kids and moved onto the Idaho Falls temple and wandered around there for a bit. Caylee was SOOO having an attitude and refused to get out of the car so Tyler decided he'd stay in the car with her . . . that worked until he teased her so badly that she decided ANYTHING was better than staying in the car with "your husband that is so annoying to me" (which is how she explained her joining me walking around.) There was a visitor's center, which was so convenient for our bathroom needs . . . until the fire alarm went off. Luckily, after a headcount we knew it wasn't any of our kids who pulled the trigger, but we vacated promptly anyway and headed to an authentic mexican restaurant.

But instead ended up at Chili's. Tyler was so bugged that we didn't find a real dive, but Erin and I were relieved we weren't going to have any stomach rebellions on our drive to Burley/Albion after we dropped the menfolk off at the airport. Fighting the crowds at the Idaho Falls airport was a beast, but we survived even that and one showing of Madagascar 2 later we were exiting the freeway looking for a Wal-Mart to stock up for the next couple days. {*SIDE NOTE* Madagascar 2 is THE best movie to listen to in the car. I laugh at more and more of the dialogue EVERY time the kids watch it. I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorite line. Just to let you know.}

Since our bearings were a little off, Erin and I had gotten off at different freeway exit than we had planned and we were trying to figure out WHERE the heck we were and HOW to find the stinkin' Wal-Mart when I realized that I had flashing police lights behind me. And yes, it was that oh-crap-is-that-for-me-oh-sh!!!!t-it-totally-is-and-I'm-on-the-phone-and-on-a-bridge-and-where-do-I-pull-over-? moment. I got off the phone and pulled into some parking lot and a really nice Heyburn policeman came up to me.

Policeman: "Evening." Me (before he can even finish his greeting): "Was I speeding? I was probably totally speeding. I don't even know where I am. I was talking to my sister. We're trying to find Wal-Mart and we got off on the wrong freeway exit. I totally don't even know what the speed limit is." Policeman: "Yeah, well, I got ya at 47 is a 35. It's 35 right through the center of town." Me: "Yeah, I believe it, I guess, I was just lookin' for Wal-Mart." {Okay, my kids are silently FREAKING out that I'm going to get arrested. AND I am pretty sure that's a huge speed trap since Heyburn's center of town is literally a blink.} Policeman: "Alright, well, let's have your license and stuff and then I'll tell you how to get to Wal-Mart." {At this point I remember I KNOW I don't have current proof of registration (a fact we realized on our way north last week) and then I had to get out to dig through our glove compartment to find a current registration only to realize that we had 3 receipts for our trailer and NONE for my actual car. So, to recap: me, 5 buckled kids, with license, NO current insurance proof, and NO registration proof. I was a rambling idiot (as explained by my mouth diarrhea above) and when I finally looked at the kids Brevin was almost in tears so I just told them to all pray. And it must have worked because I was let go with a warning AND directions to Wal-Mart. It was very nerve-wracking.

We made it to the Marsh Creek Inn and slept in (which we all needed) and then spent a lot of yesterday be-bopping around Burley and Albion. We first toured Aunt Randy and Uncle Dan's home that they are building (with their very own two hands) and then had lunch at . . . wait . . .wait. . . listen for the angels singing . . . TACO BANDITO!!!! WHICH, you have to love small towns since I walked right in and saw our former neighbors, Ron and Carol Bench, sitting right in the front of the restaurant. I made them take a picture with us. Afterwards we went to the cemetery to put flowers on my grandparents grave (happy b-day Hazel) and my Aunt Dode's too. Then we took the kids to Storybook Park where the kids ran around and Erin and I tried to recover from our bandito overload. Caylee, of course, my social butterfly, made two new friends within minutes. The kids ran and swung and climbed and slid and then we took them to Randy and Dan's to do it some more, after a quick stop by King's to get some necessary un-necessary stuff (more candy, a toy snake, a package of policeman paraphernalia, and lipgloss . . . and more candy).

By the end of yesterday we were all tuckered out, but managed to stop at the local Albion cafe for dinner. It was mighty fine and just around the corner from the hotel. We quickly bathed and bedded and Disney TV-ed them so Erin and I could soak in some internet goodness. Finally, at 2:30am we called it another successful day of vacation and dreamt of Shoshone Falls and getting to the townhouse in Utah.